Endangered archives blog

News about the projects saving vulnerable material from around the world

3 posts from August 2010

27 August 2010

University of East London Archive Discussion

Last Tuesday Lynda and I attended a group discussion hosted by the East London Theatre Archives Project (ELTA). The group consisted of fellow archivists and theatre practitioners engaged with theatre archive projects. Over the course of a few hours we had the opportunity to test their new online resource created as part of a JISC funded project and to discuss issues relating to Archives, archiving and performance and theatre documentation.

Some interesting points were raised in discussion. We were thrown into the deep end with the first question: what exactly is an archive (Archive)? After a few minutes it became apparent that everyone present had a broad view of what could constitute an archive and what records and objects were archive worthy. The EAP takes a broad line on this too. A glance at our projects and collections shows that we have digitised trade union records, video footage of ritual narration and performance, the photographic collection held at a Buddhist monastery and rock art. This last project includes navigatable 3D models.

The discussion covered topics such as the definition and nature of ephemera, the difficulties in finding common ground and shared meaning within multiple definitions of key archival ideas such as context and provenance, and research in the online environment. To round off the discussion we turned to a question which the theatre and archive communities are starting to address and explore: if (as famously noted by Peggy Phelan) performance "becomes itself through disappearance", how do you document and archive performance?


19 August 2010

EAP at the pictures: Ganashatru (Public Enemy)

This week we present details of another cinema booklet from the Collection of Rudrajit Mookherjee. Based on the Henrik Ibsen play An Enemy of the People, the film Ganashatru tells the story of Dr Ashoke Gupta's attempts to bring the truth - and good health - to the small West Bengal town of Chandipur. (The reference number for this cinema booklet is: EAP127/9/1371).

127_NFDCI_Gast_001 copy 
Following several cases of jaundice, typhoid and other water-borne diseases in Chandipur, Dr Gupta begins an investigation and discovers that the water supply at the recently built temple of Tripureshwar is contaminated.

127_NFDCI_Gast_003 copy 
Dr Gupta's attempts to have the temple closed are blocked by his religious brother Nishith and the rich local businessman who financed the temple. The local paper refuses to publish the story for fear of reprisal and negative public opinion. Dr Gupta finds himself branded as a heretic and a public enemy by those with vested interests in the temple. 

Frustrated and vilified, Dr Gupta makes plans to leave Chandipur. Fortunately, a small group of students declare themselves willing to fight for his cause. Together they attempt to take the bureaucrats and those with vested interests to task. 


11 August 2010

July Accessions 2010

During July we received material from the following six projects, based in Asia and Africa:

Preservation through digitisation of endangered Armenian rare books and making them accessible on the web (phase 1)

Locating and identifying Lepcha manuscripts as a first step towards their preservation

The tifinagh rock inscriptions in the Tadrart Acacus mountains (SW Libya): an unknown endangered heritage

Ibadi private libraries in the Mzab Heptapolis, Algeria

Preserving early print literature on the history of Tamilnadu

And this project from China - Preservation of the last hieroglyphic manuscripts in China: Shui archives in Libo, Guizhou. The writing system used in Shui manuscripts has been identified as one of the few surviving hieroglyphics in China.

EAP143 LBS_028_001 

EAP143 LBS_028_015 

It is not surprising that many of the archives we receive are written in endangered languages and scripts. Preserving copies of these records safeguards not only the information and knowledge they contain, but also the languages used by groups to express and describe these things. This is such a valuable resource. Access should be preserved for peoples such as the Shui whose culture, religion, folklore, history, philosophy and knowledge these manuscripts record. Saving these records also provides a significant resource for students of linguistics and palaeography.

The digital copies of Shui manuscripts created by this project are available at the British Library and the University Library of Sun Yat-sen University. The originals are with their private owners and county archives. Further resources and information relating to Shui hieroglyphics in Libo can be found at the China Museum. And, work on recording and documenting endangered languages is being done by the Endangered Languages Project at the School for Oriental and Asian Studies.